The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Into Motion

All presidents make mistakes and when they do, the consequences can be significant. It appears that Donald Trump made a serious mistake in Syria, not because his position that the United States cannot and should not fight endless wars in predominantly Muslim failed states is wrong, but because he failed to adequately consider the unintended and potentially serious consequences of his signal to withdraw.

Dov S. Zakheim provides reasonable criticism of Trump's action:
The Turkish invasion of Syria, prompted by President Trump’s sudden and stunning announcement that he would withdraw troops from the Syrian-Turkish border, spells only trouble for America’s position in the region. It has boosted Iranian and Russian — and even Chinese — standing in the Middle East. It has once again demonstrated American unreliability by betraying Kurdish allies. It has created new humanitarian pressures on a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that abuts Rojava, the Syrian Kurdish enclave, and that has tried mightily to maintain good relations with Washington and the West. And it could lead to an Israeli direct strike on Iran in response to any new provocation by Tehran.

It is certainly true that Iran and Russia would have preferred that Turkey not go more deeply into Syria than it already has done. Iranian spokesmen made that very clear. Nevertheless, Tehran and Moscow, as well as Beijing — an increasingly active player in the region — can only benefit from widespread regional perceptions of American unreliability. America has betrayed the Kurds before, beginning with the 1920 Treaty of Sevres that dismembered the Ottoman Empire but ignored the Kurds.
Trump has given the four constituencies ample reason to howl over his decision on Syria, but much of their hysteria is politically motivated. Recall for just a moment, that it was Barack Obama (think: "red lines") who set the stage for the Syrian civil war in which half a million people died. The Dems and their trained hamsters in the media seemed unperturbed about that casualty count, but are now counting every person killed by the Turks and blaming Trump for the death. Then again, hypocrisy is what the modern politics of the Left is all about.

But having said that, the four constituencies do have a point. The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
Mr. Trump now finds himself back in an economic and diplomatic brawl with Turkey that he said he wanted to avoid. Wouldn’t it have been easier simply to tell Mr. Erdogan, on that famous phone call two Sundays ago, that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate a Turkish invasion against the Kurds and would use air power to stop it? Mr. Erdogan would have had to back down and continue negotiating a Syrian safe zone with the Kurds and the U.S.
At times Donald Trump seems naive about the thugs who operate in the Middle East. Erdogan, among many Middle Eastern leaders, is a thug and cannot be trusted. Trump's position on withdrawal (although well-intentioned) has put a series of deadly events into motion. The unintended consequences are yet to be revealed, but they will not be good.


John R. Bradley provides an alternative take that is well worth considering (read the who thing):
... almost all the pundits and politicians are of the absurd opinion that — amid the endless cycle of war, revolution and terrorism in that cursed part of the world — we should once again foolishly see this scenario (as in Iraq and Libya) as a simple, folkloric tale of good vs evil. This time around, on one side are the secular, heroic Kurdish freedom fighters, lovers of democracy and steadfast American allies. On the other there are the bloodthirsty foot-soldiers from Turkey, a country that wants to annihilate them. As usual when it comes to the Middle East, almost all the pundits and politicians are talking balderdash.

That the reality on the ground is far more complicated will not be news to those who live in the region, but whose opinions are rarely taken into account by western commentators ...

Another thing the neoconservatives and liberals have in common when it comes to the Middle East, apart from wanting to bomb everything in sight, is the racist belief that the locals are incapable of resolving their problems and therefore need the US military to lord it over them. Thankfully, Trump has a different, more compassionate view. Despite his endless flip-flopping, he is passionately opposed to the endless Middle Eastern wars and determined to allow the major players in the region to take responsibility for their actions. It is a policy that is paying dividends.

Trump’s decision to rule out a military response to a presumed Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields in September shook the Saudi royal court to its foundations. But as a result, the Saudis are open to negotiations with the Yemenis to bring that ghastly war to an end. And they have begun peace talks with Iran. In Syria, too, the most likely outcome of Trump stepping aside to allow for Turkey’s invasion is a Russian-brokered peace deal on the back of US sanctions against Turkey that reins in the Kurdish terrorists, protects the rest of the Kurdish population and restores Syria’s control over a region that contains almost all of its oil, farmland and water supplies. So by pulling US troops out of harm’s way, Trump, rather than betraying the Kurds, has saved their bacon.
In the case of Syria and Turkey, the only way to determine whether any decision is correct is to let that decision play out. It's a dangerous game to be sure, but recommendations to continue a never ending presence is a very broken,"cursed part of the world" also has dangers galore.